In any case, I’ve been hunting him down for years since I wrote about it here at Spelpappan – and now, by a fluke, I have finally found him. Behold, an interview with Andrea Romeo, the Microprose Soccer fan and general C64 enthusiast. Who is he? Why does he do it? Will he conclude it?
In July 2012, I wrote about two Italian guys, Andy & Pippo, who called themselves AEG Soft.
In connection to every world cup football tournament, they released a new version of Microprose Soccer – except France ’98 and, sadly, Brazil ’14. All games had an introscreen that imitated the actual championship, and also included all national teams that particular year.
All in all, there were five releases:
- Microprose Soccer – Italy 90
- Microprose Soccer – USA 94
- Microprose Soccer – Korea-Japan 2002
- Microprose Soccer – Germany 2006
- Microprose Soccer – South Africa 2010
This particular story starts with an email I got from a guy in Italy just two weeks ago.
Hello Mr. Wilhelmsson,
while waiting for my English copy of Generation 64 to be delivered (I bought it via Kickstarter), I ordered few days ago the Swedish version of the book from Bokus. I got it today!
Looking at the generation64.se website I noticed that in Sweden it’s possible to order stickers as well: is there a way to get them from the rest of Europe? If so, how?
I normally don’t send stickers abroad, but I had a good day – so I made an exception.
Afterwards, I got to think of AEG Soft and Microprose Soccer, it had been well over three years since I wrote that article and I don’t know many Italian guys I’ve talked to – but none seemed to know neither Andy nor Pippo. I tried to email Andy & Pippo once or twice right after my blog post in 2012, and even chased some over Italians at csdb.dk – but got no results.
So I asked him. And he promised to help me search. About a week later, another Italian wrote to me.
Dear Mr. Wilhelmsson,
on facebook I’ve read that you were searching for Andy/AEG, in order to interview him about the Microprose Soccer hacks… I’m a videogame historian too and Andy is quite a good friend for me… We attended together a few retrocomputer events here in Italy in the early 2000s in order to gather Commodore hardware and software. I wrote to him today and he’s happy to do the interview.
So – bingo! I immediately contacted Andy – and now I reveal everything to you. And in English, since I think it concerns more than just us Swedes. Enjoy! :)
So – Andy, who are you?
My name is Andrea Romeo and my handle, Andy, is obviously a contraction of my real name. It’s been in use since I started with my Commodore 64. For a short while, I would say between 1985 and 1986, I sometimes used Mr. Baggins, a tribute to the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
In 1983, I founded a C64 group called AEG Soft together with my childhood lifelong friend, Pippo. We imported and swapped cracks via snail mail and spread them in our local area, at least until 1996. In addition to this, we also made some cracks and some mods of games, like World Cup Microprose Soccer.
One of these mods, Porno Barbarian II – a kind of nudepatch for Barbarian II by Palace Software – also gave us some ”notoriety” over our ”borders”. AEG Soft was not very known outside of Florence and even less outside of our region, at least before the arrival of the Internet. I was – or still am, as the group is not officially dissolved – an importer, cracker, graphician and later with the arrival of the internet, also the ”webmaster” of our very first webpage. Which, by the way, has not been changed since it was created in 1996, except for a few updates of the list of our releases.
So where did the idea to release world cup versions of Microprose Soccer come from?
I have always considered Microprose Soccer the state-of-the-art football game for the C64. I played it a lot when it was released, and I still remember the fight between Microprose and Emlyn Hughes International Soccer fans, regarding which was the best soccer game. For me, not being a football fan – which is a bit odd for an Italian guy – Microprose Soccer was the answer, being far less technical and more arcade than EHIS.
Anyway… every year during school holidays in the summer, I moved to my grandparents’ countryhouse. I had lots of friends there and sometimes we’d come together and organise competitions on the C64. As you know, Microsoft Soccer in world cup mode lets you assign up to 16 teams for 16 different players, so it was a perfect way to play all togheter; everyone was assigned a different national team and gradually we challenged each other, or a team led by the computer, up to the final. Those were very nice moments, there was lots of cheering!
A couple of years afterwards, in 1990, I got the idea to update Microprose Soccer with the current world cup teams – to use the hype of the Italy world cup that year – and play it all together again, and so this story began.
What are the exact changes, other than a new set of teams and a new introscreen?
Practically, a team like Saudi Arabia, even if controlled by the computer, would not have big chances to win the world cup and – Brazil would not be beaten so easily. So we invented a method to assign the difficulty level of the teams; that method has been updated, or even echanged, in every new release.
Basically, it was based on variables such as position in the previous world cups, the year each position was reached, the distance between the place where the world cup took place and the nation of the team, and also a sort of a score based on the comments that sports journalists gave on the eve of each world cup. All this, because the goal was to release the game before the real world cup started, although it would have been easier to assign the difficulty levels based on actual results, of course.
I’d say that this, although it has nothing to do with programming, was the one that required the most time. After that, the work consisted also in changing the team’s t-shirt colour, matching skin colour of typical nationalities, and drawing the intro picture.
Why did you skip France ’98 – and why did you stop after 2010?
In 1995/96 I quit using the C64, as I had ventured into the world of PCs and that absorbed all my spare time.
Unlike others, I changed directly from the 8 bits of the C64 to a 486. So I immediately dismissed my C64, attracted by the potential that the new world offered me. Besides, from 1998 and onward I did not spend my holidays on the countryside any longer, and I did not see my old time friends that much any more. I did not release France ’98, simply because I didn’t have the motivation at the time.
Four years later, in an Italian forum about C64 that I was part of, I was asked about the 2002 version of the Korea/Japan world cup. Initially, I didn’t think was a good idea …it was a simple hack, the Internet had opened my eyes to some really spectacular demos, and my mod appeared to me as a pretty lame thing – an occasion to be laughed at by others. Also, the rules of the world cup had changed, the groups had increased from six to eight and I did not have the technical capacity to implement the two missing groups.
But in the end, I thought …who cares? I will make a few people happy and I still would be amused. The same goes for Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. I skipped the World Cup 2014, once again due to lack of spare time and motivation – another four years had passed without any contact with my C64, and in the meantime my second daughter was born – so I chose to spend time with my family instead.
What is your connection to the C64 scene today?
I would say that today I only navigate occasionally on csdb.dk to see the new releases. I’m sincerely pleased to see how many people are still devoted to the 8-bit computers, with levels of excellence in all sectors unimaginable just years ago. I like just seeing some new cracks, like Ghosts ’n Goblins Arcade or Commando Arcade, or a good part of a demo, some graphics, and works on the SID. Nowadays, I do not have that many contacts, except for some sporadic exchange of ideas in some Italians forums.
And last – will we ever see Microprose Soccer ’98 and 2014? Will you complete the series?
To be honest, I did not think there were so many people that liked these releases. Will I release France ’98 and Brazil 014 …? I don’t know – it’s a little late, though undoubtedly the question of setting difficulty levels becomes much easier, now that I know who won!
But …I do not close the door to the possibility of releasing a new version for the next world cup. I can even imagine myself sharing this development with someone else, I would then instruct them on what to change and where and so on. It’s been about six years since I last used assembly language, although for this specific game I still remeber where to code teams name, skin, shirt colors, and such.
So if there’s someone out there who wants to complete the Microprose World Cup series, I’m here to support you!
This concludes the story of the World Cup versions of Microprose Soccer .
Have a great Saturday y’all!